The Voskhod

Alfred's Camera Page

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With the Zorki-10, the Narciss, the Drug and the Iskra, the Voskhod is one of those cameras that prove that the Soviet-Russian camera industry was capable of more than just producing bulky, crude Leica copies. Very un-Zorki-like, the Voskhod has a grace and elegance not often seen in cameras from the former Soviet Union, and some design and technical features which were unique for its time.

The Voskhod was produced between 1964 and 1969 by the Leningrad-based factory that went under the name of GOMZ until 1965, as LOOMP until 1966, and which is known to this day onward as LOMO. Although most Voskhods bear the LOMO name on the lens facade, there is a batch of rare Voskhods, presumably manufactured in 1965, that bear the name LOOMP (I saw one of these at an online auction once). The Voskhod's four year production life probably coincides with one of the notorious Five Year Plan periods. Probably an order was presented to the plant somewhere in 1963 by Gosplan, the Moscow Plan Bureau, to build a camera with the Voskhod's specifications. But that raises the question, of why such an unorthodox camera as the Voskhod could be built at all.

As is commonly known, Soviet camera manufacturers differed from their capitalist counterparts by the fact that they produced first and foremost for the good of the people, instead of for a free market. Orders to manufacture a certain number of a certain kind of camera were dispatched by the Plan Bureau in Moscow, and those orders were to be carried out exactly by the factories within the set time. As a result, to comply with the plans as soon and as efficiently as possible, most of the time camera manufacturers chose to produce cheap, crude and labor-efficient cameras. Although quality was sometimes compromised, the Plan Bureau didn't complain: as long as the factories delivered their share on time, quality was a non-issue. Quantity had precedence over quality, because the communists saw more sense in producing cheap cameras for the masses, than in producing expensive ones for the elite.

At first glance, the Voskhod doesn't seem a very obvious camera for a communist factory to produce. Compared to regular Soviet mass-produced cameras, producing the Voskhod was wasteful of money, ore, and factory capacity; and put in that perspective, it's strange that a camera like this could be produced at all in communist Russia. My guess is though, that this camera wasn't meant for the domestic market, but that it was meant to be exported to foreign capitalist countries instead. And perhaps more than that, that it was meant for the purpose of demonstrating Soviet superiority in the field of fine mechanics and design. People in the US and Europe who bought this camera, were probably expected to be awed by the Voskhod's advanced technical features (like the incorporated light meter, which was a novelty in 1964), the excellent design, and the exemplary finish. Because of those features, it must have been thought, the Voskhod could also easily compete against German and Japanese cameras for the consumer market, and thereby raise necessary dollars.

Another interesting question is, for which public the Voskhod was intended. So it's probably an export camera that ought to brag about the Soviet Union's capabilities, but who was supposed to use it? Obviously not professionals, since they were most likely expected to make use of the Leningrad rangefinder, which was also in production till 1968, and besides, the Voskhod is too much an amateur camera for them. Because of its features and design though, the Voskhod also wasn't meant for the lower market class, where technically more advanced Asian compacts could price-compete with any Russian camera. The Voskhod has too few functions to be a good camera for the more advanced amateur, but it's too exclusive a camera for the budget market. My guess is thus, that the Voskhod was meant more or less like a fashion accessory for women, like the Nikon Pronea-S APS reflex from a few years back. Especially in the 1960's, the Voskhods peculiar design must have been appreciated by its buyers. That the Voskhod could technically not compare to the rising class of SLRs and to the Japanese Rollei-35 clones, wouldn't have mattered to them: at least the Voskhod had style.

The Voskhod is named according to the Communist tradition, of giving products strong symbolic names. Iskra means spark, Lubitel means amateur, and Voskhod means sunrise, no doubt the Revolutionary Dawn arising across the world. The word Voskhod is often spelled 'Voschod', which is phonetically more correct, but I prefer to spell it like I do, because that's the way the word is spelled on my Voskhod's latin type cartridge. In the Russian language, the first o sounds like an a, the d at the end leans toward a t-like sound, and the kh is pronounced like the ch in loch. There is apparently a small hiatus between the two syllables. All put together, the word is phonetically pronounced vás-chot, but to finish it off, don't forget a thick Russian accent...

At first glance, the Voskhod looks small and elegant (hardly as tractorlike as some other Soviet cameras), and compared to conventional 35mm cameras, it's more its size ratio that's odd, than the dimensions themselves. The Voskhod's height is about that of an average compact camera, and its thickness is also about equal to that of a conventional model. Those dimensions are usually fairly the same in every 35mm camera, because they're dictated by the size of the 35mm film cartridge. Stranger is though, that the Voskhod is, at first glance, so unnecessarily elongated. I think that the Voskhod is so long mainly for esthetic reasons, but perhaps that way the designers were also trying to accomplish a better two-handed grip. The extra length is used to house the the light meter and its components and the viewfinder, although all of those would probably have fit just as well in a smaller body. Not that I mind, because among others, it's its awkward shape that makes the Voskhod unique.

Although the Voskhod is almost totally made of aluminium and plastic, it isn't a very heavy camera. It's not as light as a plastic Japanese compact, but at 700 grams precisely, it's not a bother either: a normal Zorki weighs substantially more.

Often when you read about this camera it's said that the Voskhod was specifically designed for equal ease of use both horizontally and vertically. Although I have no doubt that Princelle (one of the sources to indicate that) heard that directly from factory personnel, and although the Voskhod's logo can indeed be read equally easy both horizontally and vertically, I wouldn't call the Voskhod extraordinary adapted when it comes to its 'duality'. Modern pro cameras like the Nikon F5 or the EOS-3 are also designed for taking both horizontal and vertical shots (the F5 even has two shutter releases), and the Voskhod offers no real, obvious advantage over other cameras when it comes to two-way handling, although I'll grant that it's clear that the Voskhod was designed with both orientations in mind.

Although brilliantly styled, technically advanced and superbly finished, the Voskhod disappoints a bit when it comes to handling and ergonomics. Personally, I can't say that the Voskhod forms an extention of my body, or anything remotely like it. Holding the Voskhod is like holding a brick: with two hands, you grip the Voskhod both left and right, and hope it doesn't 'slip out' between your fingers. The Voskhod has no ergonomically formed rubber grip zone (sure, on a 1964 camera!), and there aren't many places where to lose your fingers. The slanted area to the right of the camera (as seen from behind) is, I think, a poor substitute for a grip zone, although way too small to place your fingers snugly; likewise on the left side of the camera, which is too cluttered with the viewfinder, type cartridge and light meter to form a comfortable grip zone. So the Voskhod is best clutched in two hands, instead of being held in one like modern SLRs. On account of its poor ergonomics, I wouldn't call the Voskhod a terribly good user camera. Plus, there's its rather average lens quality bringing it down. There are workhorses and pleasure horses, and the Voskhod is a pleasure horse; best kept in a showcase for admiring.

In my view, the Voskhod is a cross-over between a Smena-type camera (which is a line of cheap amateur cameras), and the Leningrad rangefinder, which was a big technological success for GOMZ and the whole of the Soviet Union, from the late 1950's right up to the late 1960's. The Voskhod has the Leningrad's spaceous viewfinder, its finish and its technical level, but like the Smenas, the Voskhod isn't a rangefinder camera, it doesn't have a spring-wound motor drive, it doesn't have interchangeable lenses, and perhaps worse of all, the Voskhod has a Smena's lens. As almost any photographer will tell you, it's the lens, not the camera, that makes the picture (well actually, any tool is only as good as its operator, but on a technical level, the lens does the most important job). It's no different with the Voskhod, only awkwardly enough, the Voskhod's lens happens to be the only lower-quality element in the whole of the camera. The T-48 45mm f/2.8 is a triplet-type lens which is a simple, though not very bad, three-element design. This puzzles me. Why create such a great camera with lots of technical novelties, and then fit it with a cheap Smena lens, when LOMO could have fitted it with, for example, a fine fixed Jupiter-8, from the Leningrad assembly line? There must be some reason why the lens is not on a par with the rest of the camera. Perhaps LOMO had a surplus of Smena lenses, and was mandated by the Plan Bureau to decrease those stocks? Or perhaps it was too expensive to fit the Voskhod with anything better? Or perhaps this was the only lens available in any quantity? I don't know, but it remains a pity.

The 45mm f/2.8 T(riplet)-48 focuses from 1 meter to infinity. Because the Voskhod is not a rangefinder camera, there is nothing to indicate that the focus you set, is correct: you guess the distance, set the lens accordingly, and hope that the depth-of-field makes it all reasonably work out. It would have made more sense for LOMO to have made the Voskhod a rangefinder camera with interchangeable L39 lenses, but things are as they are, and so the T-48 is fixed, and the Voskhod is but a mere viewfinder camera. Nevertheless, the Voskhod does offer some help with focusing, in the form of the definately funky distance markings on the lens' distance scale. Where normal cameras have trees, mountains and torsoes to indicate various distances, the Voskhod has a couple of cool 1960's symbols to aid the beginning photographer. There's the fashionable hairdo of the 1.3m marker, the styled symmetrical group to indicate 4m, and the house-with-funky-tree to indicate infinity. If you're familiar with later LOMO consumer cameras, you'll probably notice that LOMO used different versions of these symbols on almost all of their later compacts, and that they all stem from the one godfather of design, the Voskhod.

The distance is set by means of a very smooth black-and-white patterned ring which, on my camera, moves almost frictionless. The apertures and shutter speeds are set with the ribbed aluminium ring, and when rotating that ring, you'll notice that the shutter speeds and aperture numbers are linked together by means of a mechanical coupling. You turn the apertures, and the shutter speeds turn along too. You turn the shutter speeds, and the apertures rotate along as well. This primitive but very effective form of program shift offers one the opportunity of metering the light for the given shutter speed/aperture combination, and then shifting around with those values, for either a higher shutter speed and a more open aperture, or either a lower shutter speed and more depth-of-field. Ofcourse the aperture and shutter speed rings can be moved independently: the aperture ring is disengaged from the shutter speed ring by pressing the two black pens on either side of the ring. Once the pens are let go again, the aperture ring will click in to the nearest value. Although it might take some time to get used to, this system is, when understood, very convenient in actual practice. A pity only that there is no visual marker present in the viewfinder to indicate which shutter speed or aperture is set.

Taking the actual picture is done by first setting all the exposure data, and then pressing the shutter release button. I reckon that it's counted on that you advance the film directly after each exposure, instead of only just seconds before taking the following picture, which would indicate that the shutter speeds are best changed with a cocked shutter, although you shouldn't take my word for it.

The exposure data is set by first metering the light intensity with the in-built selenium light meter. The light meter measures the intensity of the surrounding light, and corrects it by involving the set film speed and the chosen shutter speed/aperture combination. The meter is read out through a needle in the spaceous viewfinder. The border in the viewfinder has three cut-outs, and it would make sense to me, that the picture is correctly exposed if the needle is in the middle area, overexposed when it's in the left area, and underexposed when it's to the right (when covered, the light meter's needle rests at the right of the viewfinder; when lit, it jumps to the left). Be careful though with relying too much on that light meter, since it's a selenium model, and selenium light meters tend to age with time. There is almost no way that any Voskhod's light meter could have survived the more than thirty years between then and now. And apart from that, the Voskhod's light meter is quickly distracted by bright light sources in the subject, like skies and light bulbs.

Once you've worked your way out of a suitable shutter speed/aperture combination, you can shift around a bit using the program shift described above, and when all that's set, you take the picture by pressing the shutter release button, which is located...where?

The most logical place for the shutter release, would be the standard place on the top right of the camera. There is indeed a button there, which looks suspiciously like a shutter release, but try to press it and it won't give way, because it's the Voskhod's film counter dial resetter. Rotating the clicking dial with a fingertip sets or resets the Voskhod's film counter. But, there's a twist, for the Voskhod wouldn't be the Voskhod if its image counter were not special. Well, no need for disappointment, because the Voskhod's image counter is unlike most, in that it counts backwards. Normal cameras start at -2 and work their way to 24 or 36, but the Voskhod starts at 38 or 26, and works its way back along the dial to zero. Why is that? Well, with this system, you can safely forget which length of film you put in your camera, as long as you reset the image counter to the correct number of exposures at loading time. Since there is no proper memo holder (just some scattered dials, to which I'll come later), this clever system relieves you from having to remember the details about the film used, which is often a comfort to the holiday photo amateur. Another advantage is, that the Voskhod offers immediate insight into how many exposures remain. Normal SLRs let you do the counting and the math, but the Voskhod keeps things nicely sorted. It are these well thought out details that amaze me about this camera.

Back to the shutter release button. It's not the one on the top right, where you would expect it (although were it in that position, would it be hard to trigger), but it's the round button on the top right of the aluminium lens plate. It's not very comfortable since it sticks out too much, and since it's just a small wobbly protruding cylinder, it's not very ergonomically formed either. Its pressure point is fairly undefined, and because of the bad grip on the camera and the height of the button itself, it's hard to press. Yet once pressed, the Voskhod's silent central shutter does its work with a hardly audible click, and the film can be advanced.

How to advance the film? This is the beauty of the system, the pride of LOMO: the shark fin advance. It was the shape of that shark fin that got me interested in this camera in the first place, and made me buy it as my first Russian camera. The shark fin is located above the lens, and to advance the film and film counter, and to cock the shutter for the next exposure, you simply slide it from one end to the other. After a smooth whizzing, clicking trackway it springs back into place, having advanced the film, having decremented the film counter, and having cocked the shutter. Once back in its starting position, it's locked there, to avoid it accidentally being slid again. Like Princelle remarks, that shark fin is extremely smooth in operation, on my camera at least, and although it might be hard to believe that a system like that could advance a whole film, I guarantee you that it works fine. The engineering behind the system must be awesome; through one simple motion, consisting of nothing more than a slide of the finger, three tasks are taken out of the photographer's hands. A very elegant and ingenious solution indeed.

When you're at the end of the film, it needs to be rewound. Unfortunately they found no fancier solution for that, than the usual rewind crank. But the Voskhod wouldn't be the Voskhod if it weren't a very special rewind crank. Although in its functioning not unusual, the shape of the crank again shows the attention to detail in this camera. The crank is drawn out with a fingernail (but be careful not to scratch the top plate when trying to lift up its tip) and rotated clockwise in the standard fashion. The sprocket is released by an, alas, ordinary release button underneath the camera, although it is placed in a specially formed bay. Once the film is rewound, you pull out the crank and take out the film in the normal way.

To insert a film, you open the hinging back by depressing the springed door key to the side, pulling up the rewind crank to make room for the cartridge, and inserting the 35mm cartridge like on any other normal camera. On the inside you'll see the Voskhod's serial number, the strangely formed glass pressure plate, and two screws that look a lot like setting screws. One is probably for the light meter, the other is perhaps for the shutter. I haven't tried tampering with either. Also visible are several metal light-blocking girders. The inside is painted matte black, and, like the whole camera, is well finished. No loose or wobbly parts anywhere, everything fits like a glove.

Apart from the nifty backwards-counting exposure counter, there are two other dials on the Voskhod, that serve as a reminder to the photographer about which film he's using. There's a dial for film sensitivity, and there's a dial for the kind of film.

The film sensitivity dial is on the bottom plate of the camera, and lists film sensitivities in DIN and GOST, from 14 DIN/36 GOST to 27 DIN/350 GOST. The dial is coupled to the light meter, as the light meter incorporates that info in its judgement.

The dial for the kind of film is on the aluminium lens plate, below the shutter release button. It has six positions, ranging from black and white daylight film, to color tungsten slides, and all that's inbetween. Oddly enough, the dial contains Cyrillic characters on my otherwise Latin export Voskhod. This dial is probably not coupled to the light meter. The symbols for the different kinds of film are actually quite nicely designed, with styled bulbs and suns, and black-and-white Cyrillic 'P', 'Ts' and 'N' characters (meaning positive, colour, and negative, respectively).

The Voskhod has a large, nicely grooved tripod thread on its bottom plate, which is unfortuantely only suited for the so-called German thread, the thick kind of screw common in the Soviet Union at the time, which has nowadays been totally suppressed by English thread, meaning that you'll need an adapter if you intend to use the Voskhod on a tripod. For use on a tripod, the Voskhod has a cable release socket, ground out in the shutter release button, and ofcourse the Voskhod is flash-synched at all speeds (which are B–1s–1/250s). The Voskhod takes a non-dedicated flash through its primitive hotshoe, which couples to the X contact next to the lower left of the lens by a hotwire.

Th Voskhod's viewfinder is of the Galileo type, which means that it's bright, brilliant and big, a bit like the one of the Zorki-4. On my camera, the viewfinder is slightly blueish/purpleish. The viewfinder does not enlarge 1 on 1, so you can't use the camera with both eyes open, which is a pity actually. The viewfinder is lined by a bright white border, indicating the frame area. There are parallax marks on the upper left corner, probably for the nearest distance of 1m. The thin light meter needle is visible, and moves, as explained, between three cut-outs in the border.

The Voskhod comes with a leather carrying pouch, which is closely formed for the Voskhod, and fits very snugly. The zip on my pouch is hard to close, because the teeth on one corner are a bit crooked. The camera is placed inside the pouch in a bay, the zip closed, and a leather flap buttoned from one end of the pouch to the other, to close it all off. The camera's strap sticks out of the pouch, along both sides of the leather flap.

The Voskhod has two strap lugs, which are both on one side of the camera. Because of that, the Voskhod dangles vertically around one's neck, supporting the claims of those who say that the Voskhod was designed for both orientations. Its pouch is not a very good eveready case, because the camera hardly ever ready. In fact, it's rather well confined by the leather flap, the zip, and the closely shaped bag. It takes some seconds to get it out of its pouch, after which you're left with a loose pouch, that you have to hold in your hands or something like a loose Zorki back, since it doesn't have a strap of its own.

Although Voskhods are not really common, I've seen more than a few at Dutch camera fairs. They seem to have been exported with some success, and judging from the half a dozen that I've seen for sale here in Holland, I think that the Dutch might have fallen for the Voskhod in the 1960's. Nowadays, a Voskhod in good state does about fl.150,- here, that's some $65. Like all Russian cameras, they're probably more expensive in the USA, and probably cheaper in Russia if you can find any there. I think that these cameras are actually quite rare in its country of origin, because they were probably too expensive for the masses. The bulk is probably still in Germany or Britain (two countries which imported a lot of Russian cameras in the 1960's), which would mean that Voskhods with latin export cartridges are more common than those with Cyrillic ВОСХОД cartridges.

All in all, the Voskhod is a beautiful, special and technically advanced camera that, although not a good user, deserves a prominent place in the Soviet camera hall of fame. A Voskhod in a good state is not only a very nice camera to look at, but also almost a piece of history. Because it's so underrated, it's definately worth the price it sells for today.

Lens pictograms

One of the things I like best about the Voskhod: the lovely attention to details. These pictograms are as stylish as they are functional. The whole Voskhod is full of little design surprises like this, that make this camera more than just the average Zenit.


This ancient eBay picture from 2000 shows a Voskhod with LOOMP markings, placing its date of manufacture around 1965. GOMZ went through a brief LOOMP phase before becoming LOMO.

Yashica Rapid

This reader-supplied image raises the suspicion that the Voskhod could well be a lookalike of the Yashica Rapid of 1961. According to Timothy, "Similar upright styling, but really clumsy. Fisrt you use the meter built in to the top edge, transfer the reading to the rim set (while looking down to the camera), set the focus, then hold the camera to your eye, then realise that although the style is vertical, the placement of the shutter release makes this almost impossible! Maybe it's just my 'left eye' use that spoils it. (I'm right handed but am left eyed, if that makes sense.) Still, another great strange design!"


Camera:Voskhod (dawn)
Manufacturer:GOMZ/LOOMP/LOMO of Leningrad/St.Petersburg
Produced:59.225 between 1964 and 1969
Film format:35mm
Lens:T(riplet)-48 40mm f/2.8
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